Editorial: A community forum

It sounded like a bold statement when the Observer’s founder, the late Anthony Urillo, led off the newspaper’s first edition with the point blank declaration that the Observer will be the voice of the community. “In every community there exists a need for a central voice – for a vehicle to mirror and record the life of their community,” he wrote on Dec. 3, 1975.

For more than four decades, we have been striving to live up to that initial promise. As a community weekly, we are able to do what most daily newspapers cannot. With just one town as the focus, journalists can wade deeper into the conversation than just reporting meetings or sensational headlines. Without the hurry of a daily deadline, we are able to see the big picture and the links between events, meetings, and conversations throughout the week. Not trapped in the 24 hour news cycle, we are often able to observe the full arc of a story—from the whispers around town to an agenda item at a board meeting and the ensuing fallout—before actually reporting the story. The community weekly has a unique perspective as a member of the very community it serves.

The Step Saver building at 213 Spring Street houses one of three working presses in Connecticut and has been the home of the Step Saver since 1963 and the Observer since 1975. (File photo, 1988)

Of course, if the newspaper is the vehicle to mirror and record the life of the community, then the editorial page is its engine. “We believe that one of the most important parts of The Observer is its editorial page,” Urillo wrote in that first editorial. “It is there that a local forum becomes alive; it is there that editorial comment becomes the voice of the community.”

Over the decades, the voices in the Observer’s editorial pages have reflected almost every conceivable opinion. Some of the views have been nostalgic. Others have been critical. More than a few have been controversial. Together, they form a symphony – the collective voice of the community.

As an organization that thrives under the first amendment, we take it very seriously. Free speech is sacred, and a free press is central to any democracy. As we emphasize at the top of our editorial page each week, the views expressed through columns and letters to the editor reflect the authors. Their views are not endorsed—explicitly or implicitly—by this publication. We offer our institutional opinion each week on the left side of the editorial page. The rest is set aside for our readers and the community. They are not endorsed, nor are they censored (except for issues dealing with libel or defamation).

That’s why we are so excited to add a rotating group of columnists, hand-picked to reflect a spectrum of non-governmental voices. In upcoming editions, we will be rotating through four community groups. Together, they form a fair cross-section of the community with a town-wide focus.

Readers are already familiar with the STEPS Coalition, a group that’s committed to drug prevention in Southington. They have already been providing monthly columns, and that will continue.

They will be joined by the Interfaith Clergy Association, a group that’s committed to the spiritual health and growth of our community.

The third member of the think tank will be the Southington veterans committee, a group committed to supporting the lives and needs of our town’s veterans.

Finally, we will print columns from the Southington Public Library and Barnes Museum. After all, the library is another forum for community conversation.

We are excited about this group, and we are thankful for their cooperation. We hope that their commentary raises the bar, fostering an even higher level of public discussion.

To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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